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Tropes from movie/film Total Recall (1990) (Part 3)

Tropes from movie/film Total Recall (1990)

  • Mind Screw: Quaid's entire adventure follows the plot of the super spy vacation he orders, as described by the Rekall salesman. Coincidence?!? Or was it?
  • Minion Shipping: Richter and Lori are a couple, even though she sleeps with Quaid for at least six weeks to build a cover (8 years' worth of memories including a wedding ceremony). Richter goes insanely homicidal when Lori is killed by Quaid.
  • The Mole: Quaid, as lampshaded by Cohaagen...

    Cohaagen: Fucking mutants could always sniff us out. So Hauser and I sat down and invented you: the perfect mole.

    • Benny as well, who is responsible for killing George, Kuato's conjoined brother. He also lied about having a family.
  • Moment Killer: While Quaid and Melina are kissing in the catacombs.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Everett—the chief guard on Mars, and Helm—Richter's lead goon who accompanies him for half of the film before meeting a rather gruesome end during the bar shoot-out.
  • Multiboobage: The triple-breasted hooker.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Richter, about Lori.

    Helm: I'd be upset too if a guy like Quaid was porking my old lady.
    Ritcher: Are you saying she liked it?
    Helm: No, I'm sure she hated every minute of it!

  • Nasal Trauma: Quaid has to ram a self-guiding pincer up his nose in order to extract the bug implanted in his head. This is nasty enough on its own, but the bug is clearly bigger than his nostrils, so we get to see his nose grotesquely deforming out of shape as he slowly removes it.
  • Neck Snap: In Quaid's first fight against Cohaagen's goons, Harry and another mook check out this way in a rather gratuitous fashion.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: With his drill tank, Benny creates a hole in the wall which leads Quaid to the alien reactor.
  • Nightmare Face: Tony, the head of the mutant resistance in Venusville. The mind-reading mutant and her daughter as well.

    Tony: You've got a lot of nerve showing your face around here, Hauser!
    Hauser: Look who's talking!

  • No Ontological Inertia:
    • Quaid and Melina, who somehow instantly recover from decompression fairly quickly, despite it being previously shown to turn people into jelly.
    • It seems that the alien reactor also managed to bring the air pressure to Earth-Norm, but it still shouldn't have been that fast.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • Rather than kicking in automatically, the emergency pressure doors in the Mars spaceport terminal have to be manually activated while potentially (as happens in the film) fighting against being sucked into a near-vacuum.
    • The elevator Quaid and Richter fight on is an even better example of this: not only does it not have any kind of safety netting, walls or doors despite the fact that it's shown rising hundreds of feet into the air, but there's next to no space between the platform and at least one of the floors it passes next to, making it extremely easy to get something wedged between them, which is exactly what Quaid does to sever Richter's arms, causing him to fall to his death.
    • Building a Domed City with non-bullet-proof glass walls and then permitting staff to carry guns is asking for trouble.
    • When Quaid is working at his job on the construction site, both him and his friend are operating jackhammers with no hearing protection. Hearing protection is mandatory when using or being around a jackhammer.
  • Nose Shove: Douglas Quaid has to shove the business end of a self-guiding pincer up his nose to extract the ball-shaped tracking bug that has been implanted in it.
  • Note to Self: The video messages Hauser leaves for Quaid.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Arnold also changes appearance when he jumps into a subway car to escape the bad guys.
  • Oh, Crap!: After sedating Quaid, Bob McClane tries to dismiss the incident as Quaid acting out part of his "ego trip," but when the technicians say it hasn't been implanted yet, all he can say is "Oh, shit."
  • One World Order: Not on the world, but Cohaagen's governorship seems to be the only state of any substance on Mars.
  • Ominous Adversarial Amusement: After Richter's forces riddle Quaid with bullets, the latter gets up and starts laughing loud to the shock of his opponents. Turns out the Quaid they shot was just a projection.
  • Overly-Nervous Flop Sweat: When Rekall's President Dr. Edgemar meets Quaid to convince him that he is caught in his memories and should take a pill as a symbol of his desire to break out of it, Quaid puts the pill in his mouth and pretends to swallow it while watching Dr. Edgemar's reaction. When he sees a drop of sweat running down the doctor's face, he knows it's a trap and kills him.
  • Percussive Therapy: Cohaagen, after a snide Richter finally gets him to call for Quaid's death, pauses solemnly for a moment... and then smashes a nearby fish tank.
  • Planetville: Even the presence of other tropes reinforce this. For example, the atmospheric pressurization is so fast that if it was interpreted as accurate, it not only shrinks the colony to appreciable city-size, but the whole damn planet.
  • Platonic Cave: The entire setting following the Rekall implant, if one prescribes to the notion that everything following it is all taking place in Quaid's head.
  • Pleasure Island: The future version of it. Rekall offers Fake Memories of a journey to exotic places.
  • Plot-Demanded Manual Mode: When Quaid is chased by the bad guys and gets into an Automated Automobile, he cannot name a valid destination so the robot driver refuses to go anywhere. Cue Quaid ripping the robot from its chair and driving the car himself.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Benny provides much of the comedic lines. He loses it when he reveals himself to be The Mole for Cohaagen, but still retains the hamminess.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Cohaagen is both a wealthy bastard who will literally Kill the Poor, and a Straw Misogynist who does not object to brainwashing women into submission.

    Cohaagen: (to Melina) You're going to be respectful, compliant, and appreciative, the way a woman should be.

  • Poor Communication Kills: Because Richter and his goons haven't been let in on the plan, a lot of them get killed because Richter goes Off the Rails trying to kill a man he thinks is a traitor that his boss has an inexplicable soft spot for.
  • Precision F-Strike: After asked by subordinates how to deal with the welfare of Venusville with their oxygen deprived, Cohaagen gives a nonchalant "Fuck 'em."
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • From the bomb itself: "Get ready for a surpriiiise~!"
  • Pretty Little Headshots: When Lori gets shot in the head by Quaid, the wound is nothing more than a small hole with a trickle of blood leaking out. Notably, it's the only example of this trope in the movie. Everyone else who checks out via Boom, Headshot! gets their brains splattered across whatever's behind them.
  • Product Placement: Fuji Film, Jack in the Box, Pepsi and more.
  • Prosthetic Limb Reveal: Benny seems like a perfectly normal taxi driver, until he helps Quaid/Hauser get into the resistance base by taking off his prosthetic hand, opening his sleeve and showing his mutated lower arm, revealing himself to be a mutant. This reveal would be pretty cool in the long run... but then Benny also turns out to be a mole.
  • Psychic Powers: Kuato and a number of other mutants. In Kuato's case, his main power is telepathy.
  • Psycho for Hire: Richter, Lori and Benny are all violent maniacs on Cohaagen's payroll.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Lori claims that she was just hired to do a job when Doug finds out that his 'wife' was there to spy on him. However, later in the film this is deconstructed and eventually subverted when she brutally beats Doug for simply following him to Mars which she despises, tries to slash Melina's throat in a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown and then tries to distract with her sweet housewife facade once more to gun him down before Quaid took the upper hand. In short, she is as much of a Psycho for Hire as her real husband Richter.
  • Put Their Heads Together: Quaid to two of the mooks who attacked him after he left Rekall.
  • Red Light DistrictVenusville is a sleazy strip club on Mars.
  • Red Pill, Blue Pill: A choice offered to Quaid by Rekall psychologist Dr. Edgemar.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Why didn't the Martians turn on the oxygen machine? Cohaagen believes it was because the machine could potentially destroy the planet; it's also possible they didn't breath oxygen themselves and left it it behind for another species to find. We're given no solid answers either way.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: In-universe example. Before the "Ego Trip" begins, Dr. Lull shows Quaid that some ancient alien artifacts HAVE been found on Mars for real.
  • Running Gag: Benny's constant moans when in danger on how "I've got five kids to feed!" Pays off when he reveals he's been Evil All Along and "I've got four kids to feed." When Quaid sardonically asks "what happened to the fifth?", Benny laughs and admits, "Shit, man, you caught me. I'm not even married."
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: Is it a memory implant gone awry or all real? In the short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" that inspired this (can't say based on, can't even say very, very loosely based on), it did really happen.
  • Screen Shake: The camera shakes violently when the eruptions from the restarting reactor hit the colony.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Some Leg: After failing to kill Quaid by herself, Lori tries to distract Quaid until her associates can deal with him by acting sexually suggestive towards him, implying that he should "tie her up." However, Quaid glances over to see them walking through the hallway on a CRTV, and knocks her out.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": Employed several times. Most notably when Quaid strangles the Recall executive and when he breaks the bones of Harry's men during their fight scene after visiting Rekall. note 
  • Soft Glass: Windows and other glass panes get shattered by the hectare, yet nobody ever suffers as much as a scratch.
  • Spicy Latina: Melina.
  • Spiteful Spit:
    • Melina spits in Cohaagen's face after he gloats that they'll brainwash her into Hauser's compliant housewife.
    • After Quaid shoots Dr. Edgemar, he spits out the pill that he didn't swallow onto his corpse.
  • Spotting the Thread: Quaid is met by Dr. Edgemar, the head of Rekall, who tells him this is all just a simulation and he's been inserted into it to break Quaid out of his delusion. When Quaid puts a gun to his head, the good doctor calmly says that nothing will happen to him if Quaid shoots but in Quaid's mind, it will shatter his sanity. Quaid is almost tempted to swallow the pill he's offered to "free" him... and then notices the drops of nervous sweat going down Edgemar's head. He proceeds to shoot him and reveal he's real after all.
  • The Stinger: Not in the movie itself, but on the Deluxe Edition of the soundtrack album, the final track ("A New Life") is followed after a brief pause by the music from the Rekall commercial Quaid watches ("For the memory of a lifetime - Rekall, Rekall, Rekall...").
  • Super Window Jump: Richter jumps through the front window of The Last Resort brothel to escape the firefight going on inside.
  • Take a Third Option: At the Metal Detector Checkpoint, when Quaid is surrounded left and right by Richter's men, he decides to do a Super Window Jump through the detector wall. Nobody was expecting that move.
  • Taking You with Me: During the Elevator Action Sequence, when Richter is hanging from the gondola, he clings onto Quaid and yells, "You're coming with me!" Quaid, however, pulls him up so that his arms are torn off by the oncoming ascent, causing Richter to fall screaming to his death.

    Quaid: See you at the party, Richter!

  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: Hauser leaves instructions to Quaid, anticipates how Quaid is going to react at various points, and seems to know roughly how long it'll take him to remove the tracking device, before continuing.
    • And depending upon your point of view, the whole sequence of Quaid ordering his Rekall vacation.
  • Tap on the Head: On Earth, Quaid knocks Lori unconscious with a single punch. On Mars she returns the favor with a kick to the face.
  • A-Team Firing:
    • Richter's goons surround Hauser's hologram on all sides, firing from less than 10 feet away without ever hitting each other even though the bullets should be passing right through the hologram.
    • And then, in the same scene, some other goons die because the bullets do go through the hologram. It's bad enough that the gunfire works silly, but much worse when it's inconsistently silly.
      • Actually, the hologram appears to absorb the bullets, which is why nobody dies in the first scene. The goons die in the latter scene because Melina turns off the hologram while they're still firing at it.
  • Terraform: Done to Mars, at the end of the movie. Supposedly by rapidly melting the planet's icy core to flood the atmosphere with oxygen. All at once, with no harmful side effects to billions of tons of air suddenly blasting on to the surface faster than any tornado. A window gets broken, that's it. There's not even any dust kicked up. On Mars.
  • There Was a Door: Several goons do an explosive entry right after Lori tells Quaid he's really blown it now.
  • That Man Is Dead: Quaid embraces his new identity over his former personality as Hauser, much to the chagrin of Hauser's friend, Cohaagen.

    Cohaagen: I didn't want it to end this way. I wanted Hauser back! But noooo... you had to be Quaid!
    Quaid: I am Quaid!
    Cohaagen: You're nothing! You're nobody! You're a stupid dream! Well, all dreams come to an end!

  • These Hands Have Killed: Quaid does this right after he slaughters the five agents (one of them being his best friend/co-worker, supposedly) trying to kill him on Earth, before he goes back to his "wife" Lori. He actually has their blood on his hands at the time.
  • This Is a Drill: Benny tries to kill Quaid and Melina with a giant drill, but is killed by Quaid with a smaller drill.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: The boss of the Rekall branch that Quaid visits calls his female chief technician a bitch during his freak-out about his client's violent reaction to the procedure. She takes it largely in stride.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: The "Martian atmosphere" variant of the trope seals Cohaagen's fate when he is blown out onto the surface of Mars. The heroes almost die the same way.
  • Title Drop:

    Richter: In an hour he could have total recall.

  • Tracking Chip: Quaid has been implanted with a tracking chip in his head which he manages to find out about and remove before the bad guys can reach him. Said "chip" has the size and approximate shape of a .45 ACP bullet and is encased in something akin to a small ping-pong ball, which seriously stressed the Willing Suspension of Disbelief about how Quaid didn't notice a foreign body of these dimensions loitering somewhere around his sinuses.
  • Train Escape: Quaid shakes Richter and his men by jumping onto a departing subway train.
  • Traitor Shot: The looks Quaid's wife and colleagues give him in the beginning every time he doesn't notice practically scream "these folks aren't nearly as friendly as they pretend to be."
  • Twisted Echo Cut: The cut from the fish from Cohaagen's smashed fish tank gasping for oxygen to the people of Venusville suffering from the same dilemma.
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: The barkeeper at the place where Melina works makes use of his rifle against Richter's men.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Benny the cab driver, until he reveals himself as a mutant collaborator. And especially after that turns out to be a lie and he was Evil All Along.
  • Unobtainium: Turbinium ore, which is being mined on Mars against the local rebels' wishes and keeps Cohaagen's regime running, as his superiors on Earth give him carte blanche as long as their supply remains constant.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: Did the events really happen, or is it all a memory implant from Rekall?
  • Using You All Along: Quaid is being used by Hauser and Cohaagen to locate Kuato's rebel group on Mars.
  • Video Phone: Used on both Earth and Mars. Talking to someone on Mars was as easy as phoning them up on Earth. In fact, Cohaagen (when on Mars) uses his vid phone to call Richter (on Earth) without any technical difficulties or time delay.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Richter has a brief one after Lori's death but pulls himself together quite quickly after nearly killing himself and his head goon.
    • After Quaid rejects his mind reformatting and threatens to turn on the machine, Cohaagen is despondent when finally giving the order to execute him, even ignoring Richter sassing him a little. After a short moment of silence, he suddenly snaps and shoves his ornamental fishbowl onto the ground.
  • Villainous Friendship: Cohaagen and Hauser (Quaid's former identity). Cohaagen acknowledges their friendship when Quaid calls the guy an asshole and makes sure he is given an obedient, mindwiped wife to "enjoy." Later, Cohaagen goes into a rage when he is forced to order the death of his friend, and goes on a tirade against Quaid for making sure Hauser isn't coming back.
  • Villains Never Lie: Averted; Quaid refuses to believe Cohaagen when he lays out his Evil Plan until Cohaagen smugly plays the final tape that Hauser left behind, showing they both planned the entire thing.
  • Villains Out Shopping: When Lori captures Quaid, she calls Richter and Helm while they're having drinks in the hotel bar.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The poor living conditions of the workers on Mars has led to the emergence of a resistance group around its leader Kuato demanding independence from Earth.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future: Rekall offers the fake two-week Mars holiday for the price of 899 credits.
  • Wham Line:

    Cohaagen: Someone you trust wants to talk to you. (switches on computer screen)
    Hauser: Howdy, Quaid.

  • Wild Goose Chase: Quaid puts the Tracking Chip inside a Mars bar and leaves it for the rats, so Richter's goons will waste time chasing the signal.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Quaid.
    • First he punches out Lori during their fight in their apartment. Later, he has no qualms about shooting her after she triumphs in a Designated Girl Fight and sneakily starts to reach for her gun.

    Lori: Sweetheart, be reasonable. After all, we're married.
    (Lori goes for her gun one last time, but Quaid shoots her directly in the brain, killing her.)
    Quaid: Consider that a divorce.

    • Cohaagen nearly hit Melina for spitting at him (after making a misogynistic remark directed to her) but digresses, presumably thinking Hauser won't be pleased with him for hitting his girl.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The "Rekall" brand.
  • Your Head Asplode:
    • Subverted, where the exploding head is a bomb-rigged animatronic prosthesis which Quaid wears as part of a costume. His deception uncovered, he tosses the head to his pursuers, in whose hands it cracks wise and then asplodes.
    • Also averted and almost played straight, since the thin Martian atmosphere causes people to swell and bloat while undergoing Explosive Decompression. Cohaagen gets tossed into the atmosphere and dies brutally as his eyes pop out of his head. Quaid and Melina also get jettisoned out into Mars' atmosphere but only shortly after Cohaagen has suffocated to death. Thankfully, they survive.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Hauser basically says this to Quaid, pointing out that that's his body and he wants it back. So Try Not to Die.
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